Abscess: Causes and Treatments

Abscess: What You Need to Know

abscess, abscessed tooth, abscess surgery
An Abscessed Tooth. Image: ADAM

Definition: An abscess is a collection of pus in the body at the site of an infection. 

What Causes an Abscess

An abscess occurs when the immune system tries to fight an infection within the tissues of the body.  White blood cells travel through the bloodstream to fight the infection. The white blood cells collect around the site of infection, and when enough of them arrive at the site, they accumulate to form pus.

Abscess Types

Abscesses frequently form on the skin, the most commonly known type is a boil. A pimple is also a type of abscess, although a very small one.  IV drug abusers often get abscesses at the site where they inject drugs, as they do not typically take the same precautions that healthcare providers do when giving an injection.

Inside the body, abscesses can be much more serious, causing damage to tissues and organs. An abscess can form in muscle, an organ or any tissues where an infection begins.  An abscess can form in the tonsils when they are infected, or in the rectum.  A rectal abscess is particularly painful and the infection can be difficult to treat due to the close proximity to stool.

Treatment of Abscess

Surgery may be necessary to treat an abscess if antibiotics are ineffective against the infection. An abscess can also be a complication after surgery, but is more commonly the cause of surgery.

More About Infections After Surgery

Pronunciation: ab-Sess

Also Known As: boil, abscessed tooth, abscesses

Common Misspellings: abcess, absess

Examples: After having a root canal the patient experienced an abscess, which required a prescription for antibiotics.

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